WILMINGTON – Ber’Nyah Mayo has done much of her damage this season for the St. Elizabeth girls basketball team from the outside, raining down three-point shots on the Vikings’ opponents. But on Feb. 16 against Conrad, the No. 1-ranked team in the state according to 302Sports.com, Mayo went inside, to great effect.
Mayo took a cross-court pass from Arianna Henry and drove into the lane, splitting three defenders and putting up an off-balance scoop shot off the glass for the last two of her 30 points, giving St. Elizabeth a 55-53 win in front of an electric crowd at the St. E Center. The fourth-ranked Vikings grabbed perhaps their most impressive win of the season, while the Red Wolves suffered their first loss to an in-state foe.
The Vikings took control early and maintained a small lead throughout most of the contest, pounding the ball inside all night. They began to pull away in the fourth, taking a 52-43 lead thanks in large part to making nine of 11 free throws in the early part of the period. Two Mayo free throws gave them that nine-point spread.
But Conrad was not done, showing the form that has kept them at or near the top of any girls basketball discussion in Delaware this season. The Red Wolves rebounded a missed free throw with 1:48 to go and got the ball to Stefanie Kulesza a foot in front of her bench. She nailed a three-pointer from approximately 30 feet to cut the lead to six.
Meanwhile, St. Elizabeth went ice cold from the line. Mayo hit one of two free throws to make it 53-46, but that was the only successful one out of eight attempts for the Vikings down the stretch. That left the Red Wolves an opening. Kulesza struck again, this time with her feet planted inside the tipoff circle at midcourt, cutting the deficit to four.
The Red Wolves converted a steal on the Vikings’ next possession into a layup for Julie Kulesza, and the score was 53-51. Two more missed free throws later, Conrad got the ball back, and Stefanie Kulesza tied it by hitting two from the charity stripe with 31.8 on the clock. The Vikings avoided disaster on their final possession, getting the ball across midcourt just ahead of the 10-second limit. Henry’s pass eluded the Conrad defenders, and Mayo did what she had done all night, igniting the St. Elizabeth student section.
Julie Kulesza had a chance to win the game for the Red Wolves, but her shot from one step behind the midcourt stripe glanced off the side of the rim, and the upset was complete.
Mayo set the tone early, scoring 10 points in the first quarter, although she went into the paint over and over instead of shooting long-distance. St. Elizabeth led by five after one and built that as high as 12 in the second, going in front 22-10 on a three-point shot by Rory Ciszkowski. But Conrad outscored the Vikings, 10-2, to end the half, with Kulesza getting the first eight of those consecutively.
The Vikings also got superb defense from several players, including Mayo and Alexis Lee, who was matched up with 6-3 Ja’Nylah Whittlesey of Conrad. Lee blocked several shots to go along with a number of steals and rebounds.
Mayo was joined in double figures by Lauren Hines, who had three three-pointers on her way to 12 points. The Vikings improved to 15-3 and will finish the regular season at home on Tuesday against Padua at 7:15 p.m. It is senior night for the Vikings.
Julie Kulesza led the Red Wolves with 17. Alyssa Faville played her usual solid game on both ends and finished with 15, while Stefanie Kulesza had 14. The Red Wolves (16-3) also wrap up the regular season on Tuesday, welcoming Caesar Rodney for a 5:30 tip.